2016 NFL Draft: Most Overrated Defensive Prospects

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyContributor IMarch 30, 2016

2016 NFL Draft: Most Overrated Defensive Prospects

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    Dean Hare/Associated Press

    The 2016 NFL draft is one month away and it’s crunch time for prospects and scouts alike. Pro days are the last piece of the puzzle as draft boards are put together.

    It’s important for evaluators and general managers to keep this time of the year in perspective, as players can become overrated between the collegiate all-star games and the NFL Scouting Combine.

    We’ve identified six defensive players who are currently being pushed up draft boards. It’s not that these players are bad, but paying a premium in draft assets for average talent is what costs front-office personnel their careers. The best general managers not only evaluate talent effectively, but they properly value skill sets.

    Let’s take a look at the individuals who have been projected as either Day 1 or Day 2 picks and explain why they’re being overrated. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts about who is overrated and underrated in this class in the comments section below.

Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

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    A popular edge-rusher in NFL circles is Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. The 6’4”, 273-pound Ogbah checks many of the boxes that evaluators want to see in a player. He produced 12.5 sacks in his junior season and improved his production each season.

    Ogbah also had a good combine performance. He ran an excellent 4.63 40-yard dash and stood out as a leaper. His broad jump of 121” and 35 1/2“ vertical are among the top performers at the event.

    According to Mock Draftable, his best athletic comparisons based on his combine are Aldon Smith, Lavar Edwards, Robert Quinn and Chandler Jones. Three out of four of those names are among the best in the NFL at rushing the passer.

    Despite the splashy comparisons, Ogbah is not yet the first-round prospect that CBS Sports has him projected as. Ogbah’s poor three-cone and short shuttle times at the combine hindered his performance as he struggles changing directions efficiently.

    Bleacher Report NFL Draft Writer Justis Mosqueda dove into his limitations after his combine breakout.

    The desire to add a productive pass-rusher may lure teams into taking Ogbah high, but he is more of a complementary player than dynamic star. Going to a situation with an established star could help Ogbah develop his hand usage and consistency as a speed rusher.

Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

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    Some players are solid rotational pieces or even starters, but the cost of acquiring a player relative to their peers can become too steep.

    That’s the case for Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. The 6’1”, 299-pound tackle from Louisville is currently projected as the No. 1 at his position by CBS Sports, and its 14th overall player in the class.

    Rankins had good production in college with 18 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss, forming a dangerous duo with defensive end Devonte Fields in 2015. But Rankins struggled to consistently win his one-on-one matchups as a 5-technique and will be relegated to a 4-3 front in the NFL.

    Being undersized as a 3-technique isn’t a death knell for quick pass-rushers who explode off the line of scrimmage. Rankins does not have that explosive first step like Aaron Donald or Michael Bennett, though. His matchups with long-arm tackles Shon Coleman of Auburn and Germain Ifedi of Texas A&M exposed Rankins as a one-trick pass-rusher who is much better in the run game.

    Stout run defenders have value, but it is limited. Especially considering the depth of the 2016 class with more violent and effective pass-rushers along the interior defensive line, Rankins’ stock is simply too high right now. He has the game of a Day 2 tackle who can demand double teams and occasionally get after the quarterback.

A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

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    The most overrated defensive player in the 2016 NFL draft class is Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson. The former Crimson Tide defensive tackle is currently ranked as CBS Sports’ second-best defensive tackle and 17th overall prospect, which is shocking based off his tape and combine performance.

    The 6’4”, 307-pounder is a 5-technique who creates very little impact in the passing game and does his best work eating blocks.

    While this is valuable in 3-4 and 4-3 under fronts, it sure is not worthy of a first-round investment without the pass-rush aspect. He’s asked to do the dirty work that usually is given to Day 3 prospects, but he comes with a premium price tag.

    Robinson had a horrible combine, running a 5.20 40-yard dash, jumping a 26” vertical and a short-shuttle time of 4.74 seconds. Each ranks in the bottom 29th percentile of all defensive tackles since 1999, per Mock Draftable. That’s unacceptable for a 307-pound tackle in the first round.

    There are almost a dozen explosive and athletic tackles to be had in this class throughout Day 2 of the draft.

    While there’s value to Robinson’s ability to hold his own against two blockers, selecting him in the first round is a massive overpay. Adding him in the third round in the right scheme would be more properly aligned with the value of run-stuffing 5-techniques.

Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor

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    The NFL loves long cornerbacks with straight-line speed as teams try to combat the number of big and fast receivers in the league. While the idea is sound, it’s rare to find competent cornerbacks who are over 6’0”.

    Baylor’s Xavien Howard has benefitted from his size as evaluators hope to revamp his technique and unlock talent he hasn’t shown.

    If Howard tested as well at the combine as Trae Waynes in 2015 or Justin Gilbert in 2014, his second-round projection by CBS Sports would be more understandable.

    Neither player has struggled due to physical limitations, but Howard is just tall. His 40-yard time of 4.58 is especially subpar because it shows on film that he lacks deep speed. This will limit him to very specific schemes such as Cover 2.

    Considering that Howard will fit only a small handful of franchises such as the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins, his value drops. The biggest positive Howard has right now is his 10 career interceptions. This translates to zone coverage well since his eyes can stay on the quarterback.

Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona

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    Arizona Wildcats linebacker Scooby Wright III has evaluators split on where and how he’ll fit at the next level. The accomplished star was incredibly productive in 2014 when he amassed 164 total tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. Those numbers would have been solid over the course of three years, let alone one.

    Wright struggled to stay on the field in 2015, but he still declared early for the draft. The three games he played in still showed a rusty version of Wright as he was recovering from foot and a subsequent knee injury. He rested his laurels on that tremendous 2014 season.

    The issue for Wright is how that production was created. While Wright can shoot open gaps quickly and effectively, he is an ankle-biting tackler who clearly lacks lateral athleticism.

    This showed at the NFL Scouting Combine as he ranked below the 38th percentile in every timed explosiveness drill, per Mock Draftable. He’s a well-below average athlete by NFL standards at a position that requires at least functional quickness and strength.

Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia

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    One of the biggest NFL Scouting Combine winners was Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd. He measured at an impressive 6’6” and 244 pounds, which is noticeably bigger than his on-field appearance in the fall. He looked long and lanky as a second-level defender in college.

    Floyd continued to dominate the combine by posting a 4.6 40-yard dash, 39 1/2” vertical jump and 127” broad jump. According to Mock Draftable, Floyd lands in the 77th percentile or better in each individual drill for all linebackers since 1999. He has upside based on his athleticism and size, but he is one of the most overrated prospects in the draft because this aspect of his game rarely shows.

    The Bulldogs tried using Floyd as an edge-rusher until his junior season. He was able to log 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons but only 7.5 of those came against SEC competition. They decided moving him to off-ball linebacker would better suit his talent.

    Their gamble was met with mixed results. He moves incredibly well as a 3-4 inside linebacker or 4-3 outside linebacker. But his lack of experience shows often as he struggles to shed blocks or sniff out where a play is headed.

    CBS Sports currently has Floyd as a first-round prospect, which is too rich for his current skill level. The NFL’s best inside linebackers combine their athleticism with excellent knowledge and feel for the game. Floyd may never refine his game enough to get close to that level, and a situational rusher is not worth that high an investment. He is a classic Day 2 upside pick with a low floor and high ceiling.


    All stats used are from sports-reference.com

    Ian Wharton is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.